So I got into a small e-beef yesterday, I'll withhold names so stupid people aren't made to feel stupider. But the exchange sparked a strong reaction in me and I wanted to parse that and hopefully use it to create something positive.
The topic was "...wondering if any of you could offer any advice for running games for children of varying ages "
To which I responded "Top tip: Say yes - to everything, even if the rules wouldn't normally allow it. Just do it and you'll discover what its like to play with someone who's imagination is completely uninhibited by adult social constructs, its fucking amazing."
I wish I could post the comments that followed that nugget of wisdom, but the person has blocked me. I shall however attempt to paraphrase from my addled memory "Playing with kids is fun, but they're all over the place - you will need to railroad them" Now I know i'm paraphrasing, but they actually used the word railroading. Someone actually suggested that railroading was not only a good idea, but necessary to make the game better. What the fuck?
We all know that railroading sucks, and works against player agency - a key ingredient in excellent-fun-times around the table. And of course I know that its important to structure games, and heck, I'd even say under certain circumstances (such as a time limited con game) that you might want to railroad your players to a satisfactory conclusion. But this is not that, so why do it?
Also, lets not confuse table etiquette with gameplay structuring, I reprimand my kids if they start to muck about, I pull them back into focus if they're distracted - but never ever ever - ever do I setup simplistic, linear and frankly boring problems for them to solve because their minds haven't been hammered into an adult way of thinking. They thrive in a sandbox, both imaginary and real, so take advantage of that.
So my response?
"Why play a collaborative storytelling game with some of the most inventive, creative, uninhibited people you will ever have the fortune of playing with, only to impose a whole bunch of shitty boundaries? Thats dumb."
And thats really all there is to it.
So if you're going to play with kids (you should by the way, its a blast) keep the structure loose, listen, prepare to say 'Yes' to everything, listen again, get some props, ask them to create fiction, involve them at every level and remember that their imagination is 1000% more vivid and fertile than yours is - despite what you might think, oh and listen some more.